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Build Better Listening Skills

Now Hear This!

Found in: classroom management, discipline

Listening is an important skill to cultivate. It helps you learn, develop friendships, and show your good manners by being attentive and sharing the talking time. But not everyone agrees on what good listening behavior is.

As you read the following ideas for building better listening skills, think about how you teach good listening practices in your classroom. If you teach in a multicultural classroom, you probably teach some of these ideas with sensitivity because for some of your students, some of these practices are actually considered bad listening practices. In fact, bad manners.

Listening Helps You Learn

Listening is a lot like reading - it provides an opportunity to learn something new and it requires focusing on what's being said. You have to pay attention to the ideas and details that the speaker is talking about. Unlike reading, when you're listening, you have a chance to ask the speaker questions to help you understand or to get more information. Asking questions is an important part of listening. It tells the speaker what you've learned and what else you'd like to know. And by answering your questions, the speaker can help you and others in the audience or class learn more.

Listening Helps Build Friendships

Listening is a good way to build a friendship. Good listeners know that others like to be heard, that they enjoy sharing stories about themselves, and they like the sense of connectedness when they share information, confidences, and jokes with another person.

Listening Attentively Is Sign of Good Manners

Listening to people when they're speaking to you shows them that you respect them. So, how do you learn to become an attentive listener? Start by looking at the behaviors of a poor listener and a good listener.

A poor listener:

  • Interrupts the speaker
  • Thinks only about what he or she is going to say next
  • Looks away from the person speaking
  • Pays attention to other things going on
  • Makes side comments to others

A good listener:

  • Focuses on the person talking and allows him or her to finish talking
  • Looks at the other person - to indicate readiness to listen, and to observe the person's body language to learn more about how the speaker is feeling
  • Gives nonverbal signals to show he or she is listening - a nod, smile, or frown, for example
  • Uses verbal signals to show interest in what the speaker is saying or to give feedback, with phrases such as  
    • "Uh huh" or "I didn't know that." (showing encouragement)
    • "I'm not sure what you mean." (asking for clarification)
    • "You said that…" or "If I understand you correctly…" (showing an understanding of what the speaker said)
  • Tries to use the same energy and emotional level as the speaker, to show an understanding of what the speaker is feeling

Effective Listening Skills

Effective listening skills are important - whether you're in a classroom with thirty people or in a conversation with one. As with any skill, listening takes practice, so keep these four things in mind as you listen to someone:

  1. Look the speaker in the eye
  2. Encourage the speaker with smiles, nods, and "uh-huhs"
  3. Pay attention to the facial expressions and body language as well as the words
  4. Remain interested in understanding the speaker

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